Wet ‘n’ Wild: Then and Now

How does the new water park compare to the original? Writer Jessi Acuña takes a trip down memory lane.

Walking through the entrance of the new Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, which opened its doors for a preview Friday afternoon, was like taking a time machine back to my youth. Each step brought back memories of hot summer days spent filling up on Dippin’ Dots and Big Sticks and late summer nights taking advantage of the shorter lines.

My brothers and I always headed straight to Raging Rapids. The experience was meant to resemble white water rafting—it’s still the closest I’ve ever come—but we loved it because we could ride it together, holding onto the handles of each other’s tubes.

For the now 20- and 30-somethings who spent endless summers there, the old Wet ‘n’ Wild offered many rites of passage—hoping for an invite from your crush to float around the Lazy River in a two-person tube, or finally growing tall and brave enough to ride the Der Stuka, the highest waterslide in the park. (I never did make it down the Bomb Bay.) If you weren’t lucky enough to be a lifeguard there, the hot ticket for a Vegas teen was a season pass to the water park, the ultimate stomping grounds for meeting hotties.

At the new park, the blast of bright colors along with the lower-built rides were clearly meant for the younger set, and sometimes make the park feel like a miniature version of the old one. Investors of the new Wet ‘n’ Wild promised a family-friendly park, and that’s exactly what they delivered.

But that’s OK: It’s time to pass the torch. The old Wet ‘n’ Wild closed when I was 18—the summer after I moved away for college. Life wasn’t carefree, but it was probably as close to it as it’ll ever be. While the past has a way of feeling much grander in hindsight, yesteryear is gone, and this local is looking forward to making new memories.

Here’s my take on the new rides, and how they measure up to the old ones:

The Rattler: The first of its kind in North America, it takes riders through a series of twists and turns as they make their way down the more than 360 feet of fun. Feels like a futuristic Raging Rapids on a tube.

Colorado Cooler: The perfect place to cool off on a hot day as you float around a 1000-foot winding waterway. The Lazy River minus the wear and tear.

Splash Island: A multi-level attraction with slides and a massive timed tipping bucket that spills 300 gallons of water onto eagerly waiting guests below. The ultimate playground for the kiddies. Hoping the Bubble Up will follow next year.

Red Rock Bay: Hit the surf at the giant wave pool to experience three-foot-high swells in a tube, or body surf for the ultimate ocean experience. A much smaller, calmer version of the wave pool.

Desert Racers: From four stories high, the ride takes guests head-first on a racing mat down a six-lane downhill speedway. These slides remind me of Banzai Banzai and Blue Niagara with their racing element, steep drops and the hang- time sensation.

Royal Flush Extreme: Riders fight the centrifugal forces as they swirl around the bowl before being flushed down the center of the tube and into the splash pool below. A repeat from the old Wet ‘n’ Wild, except this time around you’re on a tube.

Hoover Half Pipe: Guests drop 57 feet before the raft goes vertical, shooting up the side of the Hoover wall and sending you back down as you experience sheer weightlessness before exiting into the calm waters below. Totally new and totally awesome-looking. It was closed as of Friday evening, though.

Wet ‘n’ Wild is open to Gold Pass holders beginning this weekend. Check the website and Facebook page for updates, as the park reached capacity Saturday and had to stop admitting visitors for the day. The park will open for single-day ticketholders June 3.